04/19/2006, 00.00
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Poso: Synod of Christian Church implicated in 2000 inter-faith clashes

by Benteng Reges

The charge has been leveled by three Catholics on death row for their part in the clashes: "Now the police should investigate". One of those who should take the lion's share of blame is the ex deputy mayor of Poso, a province of central Sulawesi.

Palu (AsiaNews) – Fabianus Tibo, one of the three Catholics condemned to death for masterminding a massacre of Muslims in Poso, central Sulawesi in 2000, has accused the Synod Council of the Central Sulawesi Christian Church (GKST) of involvement in the inter-faith conflict that tore the region apart. "Most residents in Poso knew about the involvement of the GKST in the violence," Tibo told a press conference in Palu prison. "So it's very strange the police have not yet investigated it."

According to Tibo, the Synod backed – both directly and indirectly – the so-called "Red Army" of fundamentalist Christians in its attacks on the Muslim community.

Paulus Tungkanan, Eric Rombot, Lempa Deli and Angki Tungkanan, all GKST members, feature among a list of 16 people mentioned by Tibo some months ago as those responsible for the clashes. Tibo added: "And the ex deputy mayor of Poso, Yahya Patiro, should not be forgotten."

Marinus Riwa and Dominggus da Silva, the other two Catholics on death row, supported Tibo's accusations. Riwu said: "I was in the office of the GKST when a call came from Yahya Patiro, asking if he could talk to Tungkanan. As he was not in, Yahya left a message with me for him: block the entry of military troops coming from Palopo, southern Sulawesi."

In May and June 2000, during the conflict, the main road linking Poso to outlying cities was blocked by the "Red Army" with tree trunks, to prevent Muslims from fleeing their homes to safety. Inter-faith clashes that rocked Poso between 1998 and 2001 claimed more than 1000 lives.

Tibo said: "These powerful members of the Red Army, including Yahya Patiro, should be arrested and interrogated." Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwa said Yahya should be considered as the main mastermind of the clashes: "As Poso deputy mayor, he had the power to order the Red Army to carry out attacks."

Heri Mengkawa, another former Christian fighter condemned to 12 years in prison for his role in the Poso conflict, confirmed the "direct involvement" of Yahya Patiro, who has however denied the accusations. The head of the GKST council, Reverend Renaldy Damanik, absolved his organization but admitted splinter factions may have masterminded violent incidents.

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